Book review of The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free by Paulina Bren
“The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free,” as the title of Paulina Bren’s lively history puts it, fit the bill.
“For all the young women at the Barbizon,” Bren writes, “the narrow bed, dresser, armchair, floor lamp, and small desk, all crammed into a tiny room with a floral bedspread and matching curtains, represented some sort of liberation.
At least at the beginning.”“The Barbizon” is a story as much about 20th-century women seizing agency, in fits and starts, as it is about a hotel, and Bren tells it skillfully.
Plath wrote of her experience in “The Bell Jar,” her only novel.
For most women then, even and perhaps especially at the Barbizon, it was still a man, marriage, children, the suburbs.